Baltimore Ravens News

The Ravens and Positional Value

Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr wrote an incredible piece the opposite day, about how the Ravens are constructing the worth of their roster:

Here’s How the Ravens Are Fleecing the NFL Again

Baltimore is concentrated on main skills at non-premium positions, and the technique has the staff set as much as keep away from bidding wars and keep in competition.

His common take is that the Ravens are utilizing “Moneyball”-esque principle to zig when the remainder of the league zags, by discovering nice gamers at “non-premium” positions.  In the wage cap period, you win by getting extra bang for the buck; extra wins-per-dollar than the opposite staff.  More worth.

If the Ravens can get 1300 yards and 9 receiving touchdowns from a Tight End, then they will keep out of bidding wars for free-agent wide-receivers.  That provides them extra cap cash to spend elsewhere, and STILL provides defenses one thing to attract protection consideration away from #1 Wide Receiver Rashod Bateman.

I don’t wish to steal Orr’s thunder.  If you’ve got SI, his piece is effectively value a learn.  (Though I might remind Orr that Terrell Suggs is likely one of the biggest gamers in fashionable Ravens historical past.)

I do wish to remark just a little on what the remainder of the league is doing now, and the way it compares to the best way the Ravens have usually accomplished enterprise.

Ozzie was old-school in sure methods, and that included inserting a precedence on “premium” positions.  If you have a look at the Ravens three first rounds after the 5-11 debacle of 2015, Ozzie went Left Tackle, Corner, and Quarterback (and Hayden Hurst).  That’s Team-Building 101: Al Davis, John Madden, Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells would all have permitted.  Those have been the three cornerstone positions, based on the pre-analytics view of positional worth.

I feel what’s occurred within the final two seasons, is the league has gone overboard on a new-fangled analytics-driven view of premium positions.  Everyone’s attempting to be the sensible man and leverage the latest-&-greatest insights from the info science revolution.  The league is performing as if the latest analysis says that the one non-QB positions that matter are WR and pass-rusher.

First, with solely eleven guys on the sphere, there’s a restrict to how unimportant any place will be.  Every job is essential; else why have it?  And any weak hyperlink will be exploited.  To underscore that time, let’s poke two very sore spots for Ravens followers: the playoff losses in 2014 and 2018.

Baltimore’s loss to the Patriots within the 2014 Divisional Round of the playoffs was the eligible/ineligible game, in case you’ve blissfully blocked it out.  One of the options of that recreation was Tom Brady relentlessly choosing on one participant within the Ravens secondary, who he clearly felt was the weak hyperlink.  I don’t wish to pile on the man unnecessarily right here.  He was an undrafted free-agent who was a late-season damage alternative for the Ravens, and he performed his guts out.  He was a key a part of the Ravens playoff push that season.  But that playoff recreation was his fifth profession begin, Tom Brady is a ruthless bastard, and these Patriots have been on their solution to their fourth Super Bowl title.  Our man had a nasty recreation.  You can learn extra specifics here.

The Ravens loss to the Chargers within the 2018 Wild Card Round was outlined by the Chargers exploiting a weak level within the Ravens go safety.  There is not any principle of “positional value” that places Left Guard or Center excessive on the checklist.  But the Chargers ate Bradley Bozeman‘s lunch, and Matt Skura didn’t fare any higher.  They exploited the Ravens left A-gap simply as ruthlessly as Tom Brady picked on the weak hyperlink that he noticed.  Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa & Justin Jones have been in Lamar Jackson‘s lap all day.  Lamar was sacked seven instances, and he had extra fumbles (not misplaced) than TD passes.  Rough recreation; although his 4th quarter near-comeback was a shining vivid spot that hinted at higher issues to come back.

The level is, positions are “non-premium” solely till instantly they’re critically essential.  You simply can’t have an apparent weak hyperlink.

We followers and analysts discuss rather a lot about whether or not groups have “depth”.  But one factor that “only” good groups have is “breadth”.  Rather than being very robust at some positions and weak at others, good groups are typically fairly good at each place group.  Without obtrusive weaknesses.  Philosophically, the Ravens have all the time targeted on fielding a “complete” staff.  That has aggravated us followers generally, after we’ve needed them to stack Wide Receiver expertise.  But the Ravens have all the time insisted on additionally being fairly good on the O-line, and fairly good at protection, and fairly good at dashing the passer, and fairly good on particular groups, and many others.  You should play the entire recreation.  And you’ll be able to’t give Tom Brady, or Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram, apparent weak factors to assault.

Second, nice gamers break positional worth.  For instance:

  • Safety isn’t a “premium position”, till Ed Reed is roaming round deep and Troy Polamalu is creeping as much as the road of scrimmage.
  • Off-ball LB isn’t a “premium position”, till Ray Lewis or Luke Kuechly or Bobby Wagner is controlling the center of the sphere.
  • Guard isn’t a “premium position”, till Quenton Nelson is pancaking guys and elevating the play of his total OL.
  • RB isn’t a “premium position”, till Derrick Henry is dashing for two,000 yards and dragging his staff to the convention title recreation.

While we’re on a roll – I imply hell, that is Baltimore proper? – kicker isn’t a “premium position”, till Justin Tucker is profitable a recreation for you with an NFL-record 66-yard area objective on the buzzer.  We’ve seen one or two video games in current seasons the place the presence of Justin Tucker on the Ravens sideline has influenced the technique of the opposing coach, i.e. they couldn’t simply play for a tie or a 1 or 2-point lead with 30 seconds on the clock.

Great gamers affect the sport past what their place “should” do.  If a participant has an opportunity to be nice, then you definitely can be silly to go him up because of preconceived concepts of positional worth.  (But nonetheless, don’t draft a kicker within the first spherical, even when he’s Justin Tucker.)

For the report, I don’t suppose the Ravens have a look at it as “building around great players at non-premium positions”.  I feel they simply have a look at it as, getting the most effective gamers they will.  For instance, I’m certain they’d’ve been glad to come back away from the primary spherical with Garrett Wilson at #14 (he went tenth), or possibly Trent McDuffie at #25 (he went twenty first).  Instead they bought the gamers they bought.  And each of them have an opportunity to be nice.

Kyle Hamilton is comped to Derwin James and Sean Taylor.  Today’s period of “position-less defense” makes high-impact defenders like them extra invaluable than ever.  Here’s a pre-draft scouting write-up of Hamilton to get you hyped about him: LINK

Tyler Linderbaum’s comp on his prospect profile is Jason Kelce, who’s a 4-time All-Pro and 3-additional-time Pro Bowler.  A Center like that ties collectively your entire O-line.  Center isn’t a “premium position”, till instantly Lamar has a pocket he can step up into, or JK Dobbins has a man out in entrance of him on a display.

positional value

If you’ve got The Athletic, right here’s a pre-draft profile of Linderbaum to get you hyped about him:

How soon-to-be first-round NFL Draft pick Tyler Linderbaum became an Iowa football icon

by Scott Dochterman | Apr 11, 2022

“I was teasing Tyler’s dad,” Kirk Ferentz mentioned, “I said he probably rescued somebody out of like a burning house or something like that on the way over to [drop off the donation check at] the children’s hospital. That’s the kind of guy he is.”

In the aforementioned piece, Kirk Ferentz proposes one other comp for Linderbaum: Hall of Famer Mike Webster.  That’s lofty.

I don’t suppose the Ravens on this draft particularly deliberate to in search of nice gamers at “non-premium” positions.  I imply, it’s not like they have been going to go up nice gamers at “premium” positions.  They in all probability would have been completely superb with a Garrett Wilson or comparable.

What differentiated them from different groups this 12 months was not letting the idea of “positional value” blind them to the good (or probably nice) gamers that fell to them.  Don’t overthink it: take the good participant.

Great gamers affect the sport regardless of the place they’re positioned.

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